Key Phoenix-to-Las Vegas highway reopens after wildfire claims 6 homes near historic Arizona town

PHOENIX (AP) — A wildfire near a historic old Arizona mining town destroyed at least six homes, prompted overnight evacuations and closed the main highway between Phoenix and Las Vegas for nearly 23 hours, but an army of firefighters was working Thursday to stem the flames, a fire official said.

No injuries were reported after the fire spread quickly after 4 p.m. Wednesday just south of Wickenburg through Hassayampa River greenery and across U.S. 60, said Tiffany Davila, spokesperson for the Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management. An investigation team was probing the cause of the fire, which Davila said had not been determined.

The Arizona Department of Transportation reported at least one lane of the freeway-style four-lane divided highway reopened by mid-afternoon with restrictions. Davila said evacuation orders for residents were lifted before noon, following an aerial survey that showed 166 acres (67 hectares) burned.

Davila said cooler nighttime temperatures, a rise in humidity and the arrival of about 200 local, state and federal firefighters helped quell the fire, along with aircraft scooping water from a nearby reservoir to drop on flames.

There was no immediate containment estimate, but Davila said officials reduced the number of homes deemed threatened from 100 late Wednesday to about 25 on Thursday.

“As temperatures warm, we could see fire activity increase,” she said.

Wickenburg is an Old West mining and railroad town founded in 1863 on the sometimes dry Hassayampa River. It has about 7,500 residents.

The fire comes as heat warnings remain in effect after several days of record high temperatures across a broad swath of the U.S. Southwest. The National Weather Service predicts that it could be early July before monsoon rains arrive to provide relief from hot, dry weather.

In Phoenix, 52 miles (83.6 kilometers) southeast of Wickenburg, forecasters warned Thursday of excessive heat and "dangerously hot” weather through Sunday, with daytime temperatures expected to reach up to 112 Fahrenheit (44.4 Celsius).